BACKGROUND: Epidemiological data suggest associations between phthalate exposures to a variety of adverse reproductive outcomes including reduced sperm quality and reproductive success. While mechanisms of these associations are not fully elucidated, oxidative stress has been implicated as a potential mediator. We examined associations of urinary metabolites of phthalates and phthalate alternative plasticizers with oxidative stress among couples seeking fertility treatment.
METHODS: Seventeen urinary plasticizer metabolites and 15-F2t isoprostane, a biomarker of oxidative stress, were quantified in spot samples from 50 couples seeking fertility treatment who enrolled in the Sperm Environmental Epigenetics and Development Study during 2014-2015.
RESULTS: In multivariable analyses, percent change in isoprostane was positively associated with interquartile range increases for the oxidative metabolites of di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate, [mono-2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl phthalate (MEHHP; 20.0%, p=0.02), mono-2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl phthalate (MEOHP; 24.1%, p=0.01), and mono-2-ethyl-5-carboxypentyl phthalate (MECPP; 24.1%, p=0.004)], mono-isobutyl phthalate (MiBP; 17.8%, p=0.02), mono-hydroxyisobutyl phthalate (MHiBP; 27.5%, p=0.003), and cyclohexane-1,2-dicarboxylic acid mono-hydroxy-isononyl ester (MHINCH; 32.3%, p=0.002). Stratification of participants by sex revealed that isoprostane was positively associated with MHiBP (41.4%, p=0.01) and monocarboxy-isononyl phthalate (MCNP; 26.0%, p=0.02) among females and MEOHP (35.8%, p=0.03), MiBP (29.2%, p=0.01), MHiBP (34.7%, p=0.007) and MHINCH (49.0%, p=0.002) among males.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that exposure to phthalates and phthalate replacements are associated with higher levels of oxidative stress in a sex-specific manner. Additional studies are needed to replicate our findings and to examine the potential health implications of the use of phthalates and alternative phthalates in consumer end products.